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Deacon helps keep church going

On October 30 of 2004, in the Cathedral Church of the Advent in Birmingham, Joanie Hammonds was ordained into the Sacred Order of Deacons. The event was a climax to her search “to find what God wanted me to do. It led me from one thing to another,” she says, speaking of the 25 years since she came to Selma from her native Mobile.

After training in the nursing profession, she entered Auburn University to earn education hours. For a while Hammonds taught in the Lowndes County School System. Immediately upon moving to Selma with her husband James Hammonds, she joined St. Paul’s Episcopal Church and began her life of service.

She sang in the choir, was an active member of the Episcopal Church Women, also taking on numerous community roles: volunteering at The Old Depot Museum, where she says she learned about Selma; participating in Encore!, Selma’s little theatre group; giving hours to Sabra House; and serving as Chaplain of Cahaba Hospice.

The Hammonds began their acquaintance with Selma during their first year in residence when they opened their home in Old Towne for a Christmas tree-trimming party. With the births of their two daughters, Selma became even more their home. Jessica Marie Crenshaw Hammonds, now 23, is employed in Washington D.C., and Katherine Elizabeth Poindexter Hammond, 21, is a student at Auburn University.

Sometime ago the Hammonds built a home on Plantation Drive near the Alabama River and she continued her search for God’s plan for her. “I did outreach with the parishioners of St. Paul’s, worked on community projects and kept searching.

“When education for the ministry was offered I took it. This is a four-year study of Theological Education from the University of the South. I also continued working at the church and things fell into place, with God leading me little by little. Every morning I say ‘Let your light shine through me,’ and he does.”

Hammonds also talked with the priest at St. Paul’s and then with Bishop Miller, she says, “and they helped me realize I was more in the world, serving as a bridge between the world and the church.” So she entered the Diaconate Vocational Program of the Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, and began “two years of discernment.

“Deacons pray for everything, my God is a personal God.”

Hammonds serves many offices. She is Deacon Assistant to the Rev. Joseph Knight, associate rector of St. Paul’s Selma, at St. Paul’s Lowndesboro. She takes communion to shut-ins, and offers Compline and Eucharistic Office to residents at Cedar Hill. She is an active member of Daughters of the King, who take vows of prayer and service.

“I’ll always remain a member,” she vows. And she continues her involvement in Cursillo.

In St. Paul’s Parish she serves on the committee of Parish Development and Evangelism, and she serves with Alabama Diocesan Bishops Parsley and Andrus at different parishes and with the Black Belt Roundtable.

As Deacon Joanie Hammonds, she will serve liturgically two Sundays a month at St. Paul’s and one Sunday a month in Lowndesboro. She will read the Gospel, occasionally read (and write) the Prayers of the People, prepare the altar for Holy Eucharist and dismiss the people at the end of service.

Of her new position she says “When you start looking to find where God wants you, it starts in your feet, goes to your head and then into your heart. It comes with great joy and great heartbreak. These come in anybody’s life, but God loves everybody just the same.”

Hammonds’ family has supported her “all the way. I never thought I’d be here, but God has put me where he wants me.”

ADDENDUM:

In the life of the Church the first deacon was Stephen, whose story is told in the Book of Acts (chapter 6). With six others he was chosen to go out into the world to serve those in need. They stood before the Apostles, who prayed and laid their hands upon them. Thus the Sacred Order of Deacons became the first clerical order established by the Church.

Deacons continue to be servants, to serve those in need in the world and to report those needs back to the church.